I thought Anna Lothson's article in the June 19 Wednesday Journal, "Ranger Scouts - Boy Scouts minus the anti-gay policies," was unusual because my experience as a father of a Cub Scout in South Oak Park the past two years hasn't been anything like the organization the article portrayed.
Pack 23, consisting of Longfellow and Irving students, has been welcoming to boys and adults of all races, religions, socio-economic status and, yes, sexual orientation. No one has been denied participation for any reason.
While some Boy Scouts of America (BSA) groups are sponsored by faith-based organizations, Scout groups themselves are non-denominational. Yes, there is a "belief in a higher power" aspect (as there has been since the Scouts' inception), but there has been no proselytizing, as implied in the article.
My wife and I personally do not support BSA's discriminatory policy and recognize how ridiculous the new "you're-OK-as-a-gay-scout-but-when-you-become-a-leader-you're-not-OK-any-more" position is. I know many, many Oak Park scout parents feel the same way.
When we discussed participating in an organization with institutionalized discrimination, we decided that the positives of BSA scouting in Oak Park far outweighed that one negative, and that we could do more to change the policy and have discussions with our son about equality from within the organization. (In fact, the Wednesday Journal article triggered a good discussion with my son after he ran across it.)
Leading up to the last BSA major policy meeting, we were asked to participate in a BSA survey of our attitudes towards gays in scouting; we expressed our support for lifting the bans. Many local parents wrote national and local Scout leaders supporting gay participation. I can imagine our voices carried more weight as parents inside the organization, leading to the elimination of the gay scout ban. It's not the ultimate goal but certainly is a good next step.
I would encourage parents considering getting their boys involved in an outdoors-oriented organization that emphasizes core values like integrity, honesty and service to look at all their options, including Boy Scouts or Cub Scouts in Oak Park. You will find that it's a lot different from the extreme picture painted by the national — and even local — media. You might even find some local troops or packs with great like-minded people, even "Oak Park people."
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